Originally created 11/04/04

Democrats will go to Atlanta



ATLANTA - When Richmond County's predominantly Democratic team of state lawmakers heads to Atlanta next year, it will be under a new regime.

Though the Republicans came out of Tuesday's elections with a historic takeover of the General Assembly, Richmond County was left with just one member - Rep. Sue Burmeister - in the Statehouse's ruling party.

"It puts tremendous amount of pressure on me, mainly because, let's say that I'm going to end up being the go-to girl ... I'm also going to be fighting some of the thought of 'Why should we do anything for Augusta when it's all Democrats?'" said Mrs. Burmeister, R-Augusta. "I have to counter that, and I have to make a strong enough case for some of these situations."

For the first time in more than 130 years, Republicans took over control of the House, filling at least 93 of the body's 180 seats, according to still unofficial results from the state.

The party also retained control of the Senate on Tuesday and increased the majority it won two years ago from 30 seats to 34.

While Columbia County's Republican legislators are expected to fare well under the new leadership, Augusta's House Democrats could see the party clout they have enjoyed for years shrink, according to one local political observer.

"Politics is 'what can I bring home to my district?' and if you're in the minority party, you're not going to bring home as much as the majority party," Augusta State University political scientist Ralph Walker said. "I'm not going to say they're going to starve."

Richmond County's legislative delegation is now made up of six Democrats and Mrs. Burmeister.

The county lost two other Republican names in the Legislature when Don Cheeks and Randy Hall lost their Senate races.

Mr. Cheeks, who had served as chairman of the banking committee, lost to former Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker.

In a race so close that Augusta election officials said a recount could be requested, Mr. Hall said Wednesday that he does not expect to serve a second term.

"As far as I know, it's over," he said. "We've checked this thing all day, and the best we can tell, everything's in."

With provisional ballots still uncounted, Democrat J.B. Powell won 25,343 of the votes, or 50.4 percent. Mr. Hall received 24,936, or 49.6 percent, of the votes in District 23, which includes all or part of eight counties near Augusta.

Though Richmond County has 96 provisional ballots for the race, Mr. Hall said he was uncertain how many were lingering throughout the district.

Despite the Legislature's Republican turn, Henry Howard, D-Augusta, said he does not think the county will become shut out.

"It may change, but you don't really have to be a chairman to get things done," he said. "If you are concerned enough about getting things done, you can do it."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (404) 589-8424 or vicky.eckenrode@morris.com.